Dereje, a 30-year-old in Ethiopia, is one of few Christians in his family. He was raised in a traditional Muslim home; his parents and three of his brothers still practice Islam.
At one time, he and his brother hated Christians. “Many times, we went to the church compound with other Muslim friends and stoned the roof of the church while the believers worshipped,” he says. “We alienated the students from a Christian background. We considered them foolish.”
But all that changed in 2002 when two missionaries shared God’s Word with him. It wasn’t the first time Dereje had heard the message of salvation, but it was the first time the message resonated with him.
“As the missionaries were talking, I began to feel hopeful because there was a way to eternal life. I didn’t accept the message right away, but the words they shared remained with me,” he says. “I started to think deeply about life after death and about the truth I had heard from these missionaries and others in the past.”
Later, he received a Bible League Project Philip Bible study booklet. “I stated to read it in secret,” he says. “It was forbidden to do such things–both in my family and in the Islamic religion. I couldn’t even share it with my eldest brother.”
As he read, he learned more and more about Jesus. He approached his cousin, a believer, and shared the changes he felt. His cousin urged him to accept Jesus, but Dereje was hesitant. “Because I feared backlash from my family and the challenges I would face from all Muslims, I didn’t accept his request,” he says. “But as time went on, I decided to receive Jesus Christ and asked my cousin to take me to church.”
That night, he stood before the church and confessed his sins and received salvation. “That day was so special. I felt different and joy filled my heart. But the days after were not easy for me and my family.”
Dereje’s closest friends shunned him. Even his extended family began harassing him, trying to convince his own father to throw him out. When his father refused, relatives turned on the whole family, even refusing to provide a burial site when Dereje’s brother tragically died.
Despite the pushback, Dereje continued to grow in his faith. He joined a Project Philip Bible study and learned more and more about Jesus. He developed a passion for supporting needy people and sharing the Gospel.
Today, he is a youth fellowship leader at his church and he’s introduced Project Philip Bible studies to his students. He’s seen drastic changes. “The focus became the Word of God because they took more time to study the Bible by themselves,” Dereja says. “Project Philip Bible study booklets impacted the youth and children and became a means of having Christian fellowship in the church. The materials helped the youth know each other and help each other. They also developed a desire to evangelize and share the Word of God.”
Dereje is extremely grateful to Bible League supporters who provided materials that changed his life and his community. “Now, I am strong in my faith and find refuge in the Lord. There’s no more fear of persecution or death,” he says. He’s recently started a Project Philip Bible study group for married and engaged couples, hoping to encourage godly families. “Pray for this generation to stand firm in God’s Word,” he says.